Spools of high density polyethylene conduit that were stored below a freeway overpass in Atlanta fueled an intense fire that caused an elevated portion of Interstate 85 to collapse March 30.
No one was hurt in the spectacular blaze that sent flames shooting up 40 feet. The cause remains under investigation.
The fire reportedly raged about an hour before it was extinguished, in part from the collapsing concrete. Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said HDPE conduit stored under the bridge caught fire and melted metal under the bridge.
Both directions of I-85 — one of the South's major travel routes — are closed near downtown Atlanta for the foreseeable future. Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency, saying the closure "may have far-reaching social and economic consequences."
I-85 is a main artery for trucks and travelers, and this section of highway carries about 243,000 drivers a day. The Georgia Department of Transportation has asked the contractor that built the bridge to help assess damage and make repairs.
Officials are scrambling to promote alternative routes in the already congested city. The route also sees heavy traffic from spring break vacationers heading to the Gulf and Florida coasts.